May 23, 2024

The numbers tell a story of continuing devastation: blocked food, destroyed homes, and lost lives.

This is not the first time that food has been weaponized against people in Gaza. In 2012, during a blockade imposed by Israel, documents revealed that calorie counts were used in order to permit minimum amounts of food and avoid a humanitarian disaster that might draw criticism.

No such effort has been made in recent months. Last month, Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, told the Guardian: “There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza – other than to deny people access to food.” The consequence has been that every single one of these 100 characters does not have enough food to eat, and 25% of them are starving, according to a UN report in January. Children are now dying of malnutrition.


The UN has warned that “there is no safe place in Gaza”. Most people, 85 out of every 100 residents, have been forced out of their homes, having been told by Israeli military forces to move or risk death. Because two of its three border crossings are closed, and movement to Egypt is limited to those with visas or foreign passports, very few Palestinians are able to leave Gaza.

Rafah, the southernmost province of Gaza, had a prewar population of 280,000; now it holds almost 1.5 million people, most of them in tents that are not able to provide adequate shelter during cold and rainy weather, let alone offer sanitation facilities. Five hundred people share a single toilet. According to the World Health Organization, diseases that spread in close quarters “are thriving” now in Gaza. Doctors have observed “numerous cases of meningitis, skin rashes, scabies, lice and chickenpox”.


For most people, this is not their first time being forced from their homes by Israeli forces – about 66 of the characters you see here were refugees before October. Among them are children, many of whom have been separated from all family members. This is so prevalent that healthcare workers now use an abbreviation to describe them, WCNSF – wounded child, no surviving family. According to the UN, Gaza is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.

“There is a repeated displacement, constant fear and witnessing family members literally dismembered before their eyes,” the head of Médecins Sans Frontières told the UN in February. “These psychological injuries have led children as young as five to tell us that they would prefer to die.”

The 15% of Gazans who have not been displaced from their homes are not necessarily any less vulnerable than their displaced neighbors. Frequently, those who stay are compelled to do so because disability makes movement impossible. Prior to 7 October, about 3% of Palestinians in Gaza had a disability but that number could easily have doubled based on the injury rate of Israeli attacks. When someone is too unwell to evacuate, family members are often reluctant to leave them behind.


In late 2023, Gaza’s population was 2.2 million people, according to Gaza’s ministry of health. By January 2024, 1% of the population had been killed, a figure that continues to rise every day.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have tried to consider what the future of Gaza might look like. Under the best case scenario (an immediate and sustained ceasefire with no outbreaks of infectious disease), an additional 6,550 Gazans could die over the next six months. But their models also project a scenario where an additional 85,750 Gazans could die over that same time period if Israeli violence escalates and disease continues to spread. That would mean that by August 2024, five of these 100 characters would be dead.


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